Bryan Habana (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ RWC semi-final defeat at the hands of New Zealand at Twickenham:
1. Weak Bok lineouts
The Springboks lost four lineouts at crucial stages of the match. Despite the result depicting a close encounter, the Boks were living off scraps in a game in which they spent the majority of defending.
South Africa only enjoyed 33% territory and 43% possession and losing those lineouts at important junctures proved costly.
It was an area they were looking to dominate in beforehand but it robbed them of important go forward ball.
2. Richie McCaw in trouble?
Various media outlets reported on Sunday morning that All Black skipper Richie McCaw may be cited for felling Springbok flank Francois Louw early in the match.
Video footage posted online shows McCaw charging into a ruck after 20 minutes and Louw reeling from a blow as the New Zealand captain brushed past in pursuit of the ball.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen dismissed reports on Sunday, saying: “There’s nothing in it, so there’s nothing to talk about. Move on.”
Quite frankly, I have to agree with the All Black coach.
Other images shown later made it look as though Louw was hit by McCaw’s hip. McCaw is looking straight ahead at the time of the incident as he chases Damian de Allende, who has the ball, around the back of a ruck.
Louw is on one knee having just completed a turnover and fed the ball to De Allende as McCaw goes past.
There’s no debating that McCaw often tries to bend the rules with his work on the ground, but there was not much in this particular incident…
3. Not Habana’s best Bok outing
Veteran wing Bryan Habana has had many great days in a Springbok shirt but Saturday was not one of them.
Not only did his side lose and Habana fail to set a new record for most tries in a World Cup career, but his second-half sin-binning gave the All Blacks a one-man advantage at a key stage of the match.
Habana’s most notable contribution in the opening period was to be caught out of position for New Zealand flank Jerome Kaino’s opening try.
An over-eager Habana then prematurely charged Dan Carter’s conversion, with the flyhalf adding the extra points at his second attempt from the corner.
Early in the second half, Habana – chasing a kick ahead – conceded a penalty by pushing Nehe Milner-Skudder when the All Black wing did not have the ball – an act jeered by New Zealand fans in the stands.
Habana was also crucially sin-binned for deliberately knocking the ball out of All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith’s hands shortly before the Kiwis’ second try.
Let’s hope Habana can redeem himself in Friday’s Bronze Final against Argentina by scoring his 16thWorld Cup try and break the record he shares with Jonah Lomu.
4. Different All Blacks after the break
The Boks led 12-7 at half-time and appeared to have the All Blacks rattled. The rain started to fall heavily and the Kiwis were one man down with Jerome Kaino in the sin-bin.
It was the perfect script for a famous Springbok victory.
But in an uncharacteristic move, McCaw brought out his team early before the restart and they started the second period like a house on fire.
The Boks struggled to exit their own half largely thanks to poor tactical kicking and when Carter slotted a snap drop out the blue, momentum shifted towards the Kiwis, who were still one man down.
The All Blacks scored soon afterwards to take a 17-12 lead and from there the writing appeared on the wall for the Boks.
Former coach Nick Mallett was right in his assessment afterwards: “Those first eight minutes (after half-time) were crucial with New Zealand reduced to 14 men,” Mallett said on SuperSport.
“We had to score at least three points during that period and prevent the All Blacks scoring. Instead, New Zealand scored three points and we did not score. This semi-final turned on tiny things and that was a critical stage of the game.”
5. Lack of impetus on attack from Boks
The scoreline may have suggested a close encounter, but in reality the All Blacks were far superior.
The statistics afterwards proved it.
New Zealand enjoyed a 67%-33% territory advantage and a 57%-43% possession supremacy.
In the “Metres made” category they led 387-149. In terms of “Clean breaks” they had 5 to 3 and in “Carries Across Gainline” New Zealand enjoyed a 53-25 advantage.
Not surprisingly, the Top 5 players in the “Metres made” category were all New Zealanders.
Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder led the way with 94m (and he only played 49 minutes), while Ben Smith (53m), Ma’a Nonu (44m), Jerome Kaino (42m) and Julian Savea (33m) followed.
On defence, the Boks were forced to make 131 tackles – and missed 20. By contrast the All Blacks only made 83 and missed only 3.
To me it’s pretty simple and I’ve written about it all year. The Springboks lack impetus on attack and simply have to change their game style if they want to progress in the modern game.
I hate to say it because I’m not a South African who supports the All Blacks, but it was perhaps a better result for rugby that the Kiwis won, simply because of the way they play the game…